Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Seven reasons why Google+ is going to win

Last week, I said that it was far too early to judge whether Google+ is a Facebook killer. Here we are just a week later and I'm ready to stick my neck on the line. Google+ is going to win. By miles. Here's why.

Shiny, happy people
Google+ looks good. It's uncluttered and it has plenty of white space, like a good website should. I had a revelation after spending twenty minutes or so on Google+ last week and then quickly flicking over to Facebook. You know what doing that feels like? Like going back to your old Hotmail account from Gmail, that's what. How's Hotmail doing on the new users front recently?
That impression is with an ad-blocker on my browser too. Facebook's even more grim if you turn it off.

You can't square a circle
We all know that the big selling point of Google+ is circles. They work. After a week, I've already got colleagues, friends and random interesting people on Google+ and I'd never have done that with Facebook. With Facebook, you always have to choose between merging work colleagues, friends and family into one group and sharing everything with everybody, or keeping your network restricted. As a result, Facebook is 'only' most people's social network for friends and acquaintances. There's no choice to make with Google+; you just add everybody even vaguely interesting and throw them into a bucket that you won't share your stag party photos with.

I've read in a few places that Facebook's developers could just add circles, but I don't believe they can. Circles will only work if they're central to the whole platform - you can't bolt them on as an afterthought. If Facebook want seamless, easy to use circles, they're going to be in a constant battle with their legacy database structure. They also need a whole new friends maintenance front end. By the time they've fiddled with the current structure and failed once, Microsoft have got involved and wanted to tie Facebook circles to MSN, they've failed again and finally decided it needs a ground up re-engineering, it will be mid 2012 and far, far, far too late.

Yes, Facebook has sharing settings, but that's exactly my point. They're a bolt-on rather than baked into the core of what the platform does and so they're a pain in the neck to use.

The Germans say they're handy
Social networks work brilliantly on smartphones. You get notifications instantly and you can share instantly. We're only just getting started with the potential for instant photo and video sharing for example.

You might have noticed that Google is quite good at mobile. Even if Facebook build fantastic mobile apps (which they don't), Google will always be ahead, because they know what's coming up in the next version of Android. The next version Google+ app can incorporate new Android features before Facebook even knows they exist.

All that and the Google+ Android app is already better than Facebook's

A picture says a thousand words
Let's face it, Facebook's photo storage has always been pretty poor; low quality pictures and the galleries aren't great. Picasa is very good and tied into the heart of Google+. Photographers like things like Picasa keeping EXIF data from the photos rather than stripping it out. You can actually use Picasa as a proper photo storage tool rather than a toy that's just for sharing quickly.

Back to mobile, if you don't strip the EXIF data off, you can locate and map geotagged photos. Powerful? Oh yes.

Show me the money
Facebook really needs to start showing it can make money. Or rather profit. But every time it tries, there's an outcry about privacy, or obtrusive ads. Let's be honest, Google can run Google+ at a loss if they like and tailored search based on user profiles will make them money even if they never actually advertise directly on the platform.

Not being a slave to ads on the network is a hugely strong position. Google can make Google+ work for users. Facebook, first and foremost, needs to work for advertisers.

And back to mobile once more... There isn't much room for advertising on a mobile phone screen, so not needing to run ads is an even bigger advantage.

Lock 'em up and throw away the key
If it's so great, then what's to stop you migrating to Google+? Absolutely nothing. You don't need to take anything with you - not even your Facebook photos as they're low quality and were shared in a moment, not stored there as a long term solution. All Facebook has is knowledge of your network and judging by the speed that my contacts are finding each other on Google+, a lot of people have misjudged how valuable that is. Give people a cool animated circle and they'll rebuild their network in a few hours one evening, just because it's a fun thing to do.

Zuckerberg is terrified
Why else would Facebook be shutting down export routes for your data as fast as developers can set them up? That's not the sign of a company which believes it's got the strongest product and it's not the way to persuade people you're the best and most trustworthy guardian of their data.

The only thing I can see that would halt the Google+ bandwagon is an antitrust ruling, but if Google are going to be slapped down by competition regulators then it will take ages to happen in either of Europe or America, never mind both. The regulators have also got their eye on search dominance, not social, and by the time they get moving, Google+ will already have won.

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